By Colleen Ryan – Being a five year old in a school of 847 students can be somewhat overwhelming. Some of my students still get nervous when the bell rings during a bathroom break, and 100 high/school middle school students are getting from class to class. I do have many students with 4-5 older siblings who get excited because they get to see them in the halls, but my students who have no older siblings cannot help but feel overwhelmed.
Over the past semester, I’ve pondered how to make the school feel smaller to them. I was talking with 3rd grade teacher, Stephanie Rappe, about how nice it would be to pair up our students and do an activity. Right before Thanksgiving break, the third graders came to our room to help the kindergartners make a turkey craft and then read with.
At first my students were very shy, but the third graders were so caring, they soon warmed up to the idea. Watching the third graders interact with their buddy was incredible, they were all kind and patient. They would show them how to cut in different ways, they would encourage them when they struggled with a word, and they read to them talking about different things in the story. My kids instantly began to look up to their buddy.
For some of them, the halls started to feel a little smaller because they would have someone to look for in. We decided to do another project before winter break and my students were counting down the days.
This time we went up to the third grade room and made gingerbread men. They were shocked that we had to walk up so many stairs to get there, but they thought it was so fun. Once again the pairs all worked so well together. I even heard one third grader say to his buddy ‘remember what I showed you last time, if you cut like this first it will be a lot easier.’ It has been wonderful for both groups of kids.
By Colleen Ryan – So far this school year has been a complete 180 from last year.
After I graduated in December, I taught reading, writing, and math to the 7th graders. I enjoyed working with the older students because we got to have really in depth conversations day to day about what they were learning. Moving from 7th grade to kindergarten has been a joyful but overwhelming change.
During the past 3 weeks I have been working on retraining my brain to think on the level of my students. Often times during the day I have to remind myself that school is something that is new to them. The little things that I didn’t have to teach my students last year are now practiced every day until they become natural habits; like walking in the halls, saying their name loud in the lunch line, how to share, etc.
One of the best parts of teaching kindergarten is the excitement the kids have in each activity. From the first day of school my 5 year olds came in with huge smiles on their little faces ready to learn. Its amazing how the littlest things makes them instantly excited and engaged in what is going on, whether its using a puppet to teach letters or counting “like a lion” it is very easy to get the student enthused about each activity. I could tell from day one that these little people have huge hearts, they all want to learn and they all want please me in every way they can.
I have had the pleasure of working with a veteran kindergarten teacher, which has been beyond helpful. It is amazing to see what come from years and years of experience, and exciting to bring new ideas to the table. In the past three weeks I have learned so much about how to teach to these younger students and I am looking forward to learning more and more each day.
Colleen Ryan ’10 graduated from Marquette with a degree in Elementary Education and Communication Studies. For as long as she remembers she has always wanted to be a teacher because teachers have the ability to impact lives each and every day. She will be starting her first year of teaching at the Hmong American Peace Academy teaching K5.